Sir Clive Woodward, recently appointed to the board at strategic IT services provider Aura Technology, on why CEOs must understand the vital role technology plays in successful teams and businesses
Sir Clive Woodward knows what a successful organisation looks like and how it behaves. He saw it in 2003 with a winning campaign, culminating in Jonny Wilkinson’s dramatic last-gasp drop-goal led the nation to World Cup glory – and again in 2012 when, as Team GB director of sport, his work with coaches and performance directors pulled in a record haul of medals.
In both successes, Woodward leveraged the power of technology to give his teams the edge. In the run-up to the World Cup win he introduced Prozone, an evaluation system that fed back information from cameras strapped to the roof of Twickenham to allow him to track players’ performance levels. In 2012, technology known as Dartfish was used to analyse live feeds from Olympic broadcasting services, helping coaches make live decisions based on performance.
It’s fair to say that his commitment to a technology-led approach has raised a few eyebrows along the way, but the results speak for themselves.
Now working as a sought-after business consultant, supporting high-performing teams and organisations to improve performance, Woodward sees a clear link between business and sport in the use of technology to gain a competitive advantage.
“I’ve always said that whoever wins in IT tends to win,” he said, sitting alongside Tim Walker, MD of Aura Technology, following the announcement of his appointment to the board. “I’ve used that phrase in business and in sport. When I first used it in sport, people thought I was crazy – but I firmly believe it.
“We’ve seen technology take sports to a whole new level, and that can be applied to the business world. There’s no doubt that companies which really understand technology, and invest in it, get taken to a whole new level.”
A strong background in technology
While Woodward is renowned for his coaching achievements in the world of sport, he has a strong background in technology businesses.
He enjoyed a successful 18-year business career before becoming England coach, including a career with Xerox and the founding of a computer leasing company. He is also the founder of Hive Learning, an online community where business leaders share technical and commercial knowledge.
Experience has taught him that leaders at the very top levels need to understand the impact of IT on their organisations and proactively drive strategic decisions to unlock the huge potential that technology brings.
“It needs to be led by the chief executive and C-Suite and not left to middle management,” he said. “Most of the people I’m coaching are chief executives or chief financial officers. What I’ve found is that the higher up people go in an organisation, the more they tend to leave the technology world behind and delegate it to somebody else. I’d say that’s a huge mistake.
“Without a doubt, if you’re the chief executive of a company with anything from 50 to 500 people, you have to be on top of IT. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs in exact detail but you do need to know the key points – the headline news. If you stay on top of those you will make sure the right investment is made and the right decisions are made – you can’t just delegate that to a junior manager.”
A forensic look at IT in business
Woodward’s experience of the importance of technology in high-performing teams chimes with Aura Technology’s stated aim to “redefine the relationship between business and IT”. After meeting several times with Tim Walker and learning about Aura’s technology roadmap process for businesses, Woodward agreed to take a non-executive board position to help shape the company’s strategy as it moves into its next phase of growth.
“What I liked about Aura Technology was that they speak plain English – not technology-speak,” said Woodward. “I think people in senior roles shy away from the technology world for fear of being exposed and showing a lack of knowledge about it. What Tim and the team have shown me is that they shouldn’t be exposed – they put it all in very simple, straightforward language that they can make a decision on.
“Aura can come in and take a forensic look at the business and help a chief executive understand quite quickly how technology can help it to grow. Tim has a very experienced and talented group of people. Talent alone is not enough, but you’ve got to start with it – and as you see in sport, it’s about how you leverage that talent and how you really do work together as a team. That’s why I’m excited about this position, because we are going to get this team to a whole new level.”
A winning mindset
A shared love of rugby was what first brought Woodward together with Tim Walker – but it was a passion for leadership, teamwork and performance excellence that cemented the relationship.
“Clive has a very strong background in technology and an unparalleled understanding of how a winning mindset leads teams to succeed,” said Walker.
“Even though our company is less than two years old, he has identified these winning qualities in Aura’s team and I am thrilled that he has chosen to join us to help make the most of our business’s enormous potential as we take it to the next level.
“One of the main differences in Aura’s proposition is the process called the Aura Technology roadmap. That’s a really thorough analysis of the organisation’s environment from a technology perspective – what have they got? How do they use it? What do a variety of stakeholders throughout the organisation think about their IT, and how do they think it’s going to take them forward?
“All of that is overlaid with an understanding from the board perspective around where it is they are trying to get to, and how they are going to do it. Understanding that well, ensures that any technology recommendations we make are aligned to that particular organisation’s strategy.
“Like Clive, we see how the strategic objectives of an organisation must be underpinned by good quality technology. That’s why I felt we hit it off when I first met Clive – he has seen how Aura is different from the rest of the market, and we’re doing something interesting. We see a real desire from him to add value to Aura and that’s why we’re so excited about having him on board.”
See video interviews with Sir Clive Woodward at auratechnology.com
Redefining the relationship between business and IT
Aura Technology works at senior level with businesses with mainly between 50 and 500 IT users to develop and implement IT strategies that are aligned to business plans and goals.
Backed by a team of technology professionals with decades of experience, Aura, based at Ocean Village, Southampton, works with clients including Vail Williams, Spinlock, Inspiration Marine Group, VFS and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Aura’s approach is built on its Technology Roadmap process, developed in house, that would normally form the first engagement with a new client. This benchmarks the performance of the existing infrastructure, identifies issues or opportunities for improvement and recommends a bespoke solution.